Writer Simon Moore ("Gulliver's Travels") has penned one of the most self-indulgent, nonsensical scripts for television representing more than anything else the extreme lengths a network will go to obtain a sweeps ratings victory. Still, the Peacock is hedging its bets, airing only the first six hours within sweeps. Filmed over a seven-month period at fantastical locales, this is the high-priced mini that many say is the reason for the recent restructuring at the NBC Movies division. Filled with Wizard of Oz-like implications and linking as many fairy tales together into a piecemeal plot, the biggest hurdle "The 10th Kingdom" faces is finding an appropriate audience. Far too violent and ugly for kids and too ridiculous for adults, the mini's best odds are with teenage boys, or possibly the Dungeons & Dragons crowd.

Writer Simon Moore (“Gulliver’s Travels”) has penned one of the most self-indulgent, nonsensical scripts for television representing more than anything else the extreme lengths a network will go to obtain a sweeps ratings victory. Still, the Peacock is hedging its bets, airing only the first six hours within sweeps. Filmed over a seven-month period at fantastical locales, this is the high-priced mini that many say is the reason for the recent restructuring at the NBC Movies division. Filled with Wizard of Oz-like implications and linking as many fairy tales together into a piecemeal plot, the biggest hurdle “The 10th Kingdom” faces is finding an appropriate audience. Far too violent and ugly for kids and too ridiculous for adults, the mini’s best odds are with teenage boys, or possibly the Dungeons & Dragons crowd.

The length of the mini is certainly daunting, although other TV events such as ABC’s “War and Remembrance” and NBC’s “Centennial” clocked in at longer hours and still brought in a big audience. However, viewers are far more patient with historical dramas, which are almost certain to register a return on the time invested.

That’s not the case here. Directors David Carson and Herbert Wise vacillate wildly in pace and tone over five nights, only to peter out in a very ungratifying denouement.

The basic plot features an alternate universe of nine kingdoms inhabited by fairytale characters, trolls, evil queens and human/animal hybrids.

Prince Wendell (Daniel Lapaine), ruler of the Ninth Kingdom is turned into a dog by the evil Queen (Diane Wiest) who in exchange turns a dog into a prince in an attempt to usurp the throne.

A magical doorway linking the two worlds appears in Central Park where Tony (John Larroquette), a janitor, and his daughter Virginia (Kimberly Williams) are inadvertently drawn to the other side.

Their quest to return home is foiled — then propelled over five nights, with various characters emerging to either help or hinder their efforts. It isn’t until part four that any attempt is made to piece together the seemingly random occurrence of events, and even then it boils down to a tired lecture in self-help. Turns out Virginia needs to confront her anger over her mother, who left the family when she was seven. One trip to a good therapist would have saved Virginia and the viewers a whole lot of time.

The all-star cast is more like a bank of extremely available actors playing the largest collection of unlikable characters ever assembled for a television event.

Kimberly Williams is doe-eyed and pretty and is heavily featured throughout, but 10 hours is a lot for this star to carry on her shoulders.

She doesn’t get much help from the ornery and unpersonable Larroquette, or her on-screen love interest Wolf, played by the twitchy Scott Cohen.

Wiest, as the evil Queen, is given the most chance to shine, but even hers is a one-note performance. Wiest’s supposedly threatening evil character turns out to be surprisingly ineffectual for someone with so many magical resources in her power.

Burly (Hugh O’Gorman), Blabberwort (Dawnn Lewis) and Bluebell (Jeremiah W. Birkett), the trio of trolls who propagate the story, are the main source of humor — unless you count the dog turned prince who lifts his leg to urinate and ponders how to adequately stroke himself.

Other secondary perfs and cameo appearances, including Ed O’Neill as the Troll King and Ann-Margret as Cinderella, are either terribly overdone or, as in the case of Rutger Hauer as the Huntsman and Camryn Manheim as Snow White, completely underplayed.

Production values, however, are beyond reproach; lensing by Lawrence Jones and Chris Howard captures the most breathtaking vistas in England, Austria, France and Germany. Likewise, fantastical sets by Rob Hinds and Julian Fullalove evoke the grandeur of ancient fairy tales, while music by Anne Dudley further enhances the mystical atmosphere.

The 10th Kingdom

(MINISERIES; NBC, FEB. 27, 28, 9 P.M.; MARCH 1, 8 P.M.; MARCH 5, 9 P.M.; MARCH 6, 8 P.M.)

Production

Filmed in England, Austria, France and Germany by Carnival Films and Production Line and Babelsberg Intl. Film Produktion in association with Hallmark Entertainment and NBC. Executive producers Robert Halmi Sr., Robert Halmi Jr.; producers Jane Prowse, Simon Moore, Brian Eastman; writer, Simon Moore; director, David Carson, Herbert Wise.

Crew

Camera, Lawrence Jones, Chris Howard; editor, Chris Wimble; music, Anne Dudley; casting Lynn Kressel, Kate Rhodes, James Jones, Sue Jones. Running time: 10 HOURS

With

Virginia ..... Kimberly Williams Tony ..... John Larroquette Wolf ..... Scott Cohen Prince Wendell ..... Daniel Lapaine Queen ..... Diane Wiest Huntsman ..... Rutger Hauer Relish the Troll King ..... Ed O'Neill Blue Bell ..... Jeremiah W. Birkett Blabberwort ..... Dawn Lewis Burly ..... Hugh O'Gorman Snow White ..... Camryn Manheim Cinderella .....Ann-Margret Clayface .....Jimmy Nail Acorn .....Warwick Davis Governor ..... John Shrapnel Tooth Fairy .....Timothy Bateson Chancellor Griswold ..... Robert Hardy Viscount Lansky ..... Aden Gillet Lord Rupert .....William Osborne Old Retainer .....Edward Jewesbury Giles .....Jeffry Wickham Grandmother .....Moira Lister Dr. Horovitz ..... Sheila Steafel Mayor of Beantown ..... Arthur Cox Woodsman ..... James Cosmo This 10-hour extravaganza from the Halmi family is being hyped by NBC as "the epic event of the millennium." Rather, it plays like a fractured fairy tale that's about six hours too long --- and is likely the first program of such length built almost entirely around special effects and outrageous characters instead of storyline and plot.

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